Recently, I read Condoleezza Rice’s memoir, Condoleezza Rice a Memoir of My Extraordinary, Ordinary Family and Me. While I admire this black woman’s accomplishments, I simply cannot agree with her politics. That said…
Condoleezza Rice appears to have been heavily influenced by her dad, John W. Rice, Jr. Of course, her dad was a lifelong Republican (I’d like to think a Lincoln Republican), a Presbyterian minister, an accomplished educator, and a Cleveland Brown’s fan (probably because the great Jim Brown was drafted by the Brown’s in the late 1950’s). In fact, Condi is a Cleveland Brown’s fan to this day. John Rice’s only departure from the Republican Party appears to be when he expressed his intention to vote for Bobby Kennedy in 1968. After the assassination of Robert Kennedy, her dad would go on to vote for Richard Nixon.
One of my biggest surprises within Condi’s memoir was the revelation that her father was friends with Stokely Carmichael, leader of the Student Non-violent Coordinating Committee (SNCC). In fact, Stokely Carmichael lectured several times for her dad while he was Dean of Students at Stillman College, a historically black college, in Tuscaloosa, Alabama as well as at the University of Denver. Condi described her dad’s relationship to Stokely Carmichael as, “a long and unusual friendship”.
It could be said that Condi’s political posture seems to be borne more out of her achieved status. She claims that she joined the Republican Party after voting for Ronald Reagan in 1980, but her unique experiences and her father’s influence are definitely contributive. While growing up, Condi’s parents afforded her the opportunity to be rigorously challenged academically. She was also classically trained as a pianist and a competitive ice skater amongst other things. She began her college career at the tender age of 16 and eventually achieved her PhD in International Studies from the University of Denver during which time she also studied abroad in the former Soviet Union learning both the Russian and Czech languages.
She had quite a sheltered and fortunate upbringing even though born and raised in part in Birmingham, Alabama during racial segregation and the continual humiliation of all things black. According to her memoir, she was very good friends with Denise McNair, one of the four young girls killed in the church bombing during some of the darkest days of the civil rights struggle.
After her family left Birmingham, there is a distinct cultural shift from her African American heritage. Curiously enough, in Condoleezza’s recent remarks at the RNC she references her Alabama roots, as she has done in times past, but that appears to be her last real connection to black people. It appears that her uncommon upbringing and achievements seem to separate her more than endear her to other African Americans. It’s almost as if she’s been stolen from black America. Or is it that she has voluntarily divorced herself?
I guess her separation from her own culture began, ironically, when segregation ended and affirmative action began. Notwithstanding her brilliance, she has also benefited from both things. In conjunction with the timing and advent of political and social events of the time, Condi was being prepared by her parents, perhaps unknowingly, to encounter what has become an incredible trajectory of accomplishments. She is the first African American woman to serve as provost at Stanford University, the first black woman to be appointed National Security Advisor, the first black woman to serve as U.S. Secretary of State and now the first black woman to become a member of the Augusta National Golf Club (since 1933, an all-male membership only club that did not admit women). With each success though, her disconnection with many black people seems to widen.
Regardless of heritage, Condoleezza Rice is uncommon in every way, and I must admit that I am impressed with her self-assured nature. There are a few stories recounted within her memoir that lead me to this conclusion. I can also recall watching her on C-SPAN when she was the National Security Advisor appear before a congressional committee. I was impressed with her mental agility and composure while being questioned by Senators, including Joe Biden. But, my question is how can this black woman still be a Republican? Can’t she see what the Republican Party has become? How can a black woman from the segregated south ignore the Southern Strategy of the Republican Party? Yes, she is a brilliant and accomplished, and I admire her for extraordinary life and achievements, but, sadly, I find her politics perplexing to the say the least.